In the last three posts, I wrote about my experience of celebrating Durga Puja in Mysore, Bangalore, Kolkata, and Berhampore. For the last post in this series, I wish to speak about the way life and the idea of celebrating a festival changed for us this year.
Life during the pandemic taught me perseverance and resilience. My son and I hadn’t taken a trip outside Kolkata since March. It was more out of compulsion than by choice that we decided to return to Berhampore after more than a year this October. Leaves were canceled at my husband’s workplace during the festival. Both my father and in-laws weren’t in a position to travel back to Kolkata at such short notice.
After the mandatory isolation period, the only distance that I traveled in Berhampore was from my in-law’s house to Baba’s home for a couple of days. I consciously decided not to step out of home for pushpanjali or pandal hopping. We offered our prayers at home. The bhog preparation for our para pandal happens on the ground floor of my home. Thus, we weren’t deprived of the delicious food options during the festival.
While I have a couple of pictures of Tuneer celebrating with my father and in-laws, I could only click a single picture of Ma Durga in the pandal near my home. I took the snap standing 10 meters away from the pandal while I was leaving for my in-law’s place. My husband clicked the other picture of their UCC Durga puja, which has entered its third year since inception.
We missed out on meeting friends, enjoying the endless adda sessions, visiting multiple pandals, and eating out at restaurants. But it was a conscious decision to stay indoors, not just for our safety but also for the ones who are most vulnerable to this deadly virus. I wish to remember 2020 as a year that showed us the importance of minimalism and sensible choices.
I hope you had a grand Durga Puja, celebrating in your way but without compromising on precautions. Here’s wishing you and your family a Shubo Bijoya Dashami/ Vijaya Dashami and Happy Dusshera. May we overcome the hurdles to go back to the old normal very soon.
I wrote four rant posts as part of the My Friend Alexa campaign this month. Durga Puja begins today, and I have decided to stay indoor to stay safe amidst the pandemic. I thought it was a golden opportunity to take a trip down memory lane and revisit Durga Pujas spent in various cities during my student/professional life.
I lived in Mysore from 2009 till 2014. ICICI Bank gave me the first posting as Branch Manager in this beautiful laidback city. Mysore barely hosted a couple of Durga Pujas then. This picture was clicked in 2012, a year after I had lost Ma. It was my second puja after the wedding. I didn’t apply for leave to go home for puja that year; it was traumatic to celebrate when every small instance reminded me of my mother. We went out for dinner on the day of Saptami, and on our way back we saw the first Durga Puja of the city. Needless to say, it was difficult to control my emotions.
Zain glanced through the messages of his old school buddies Whatsapp group. Most of his friends had pictures clicked during the ongoing Durga Puja as their Whatsapp status. Some of them had updated Whatsapp status video related to pandal hopping and celebration.
Despite belonging to a different religion, Durga Puja had always held a special place in his life because of his best friends, the twins Samay and Srestha. But the equations changed on a different night of Puja, twelve years back.
The three of them were soon to leave for different cities for higher studies. Zain had been dating Srestha for six months then. Before he got an opportunity to talk to Samay about their relationship, Samay had walked into Srestha hugging Zain on their terrace on that unfortunate night.
Samay had asked Zain to choose between their friendship and his love for Srestha immediately. Zain had picked their friendship at the cost of breaking Srestha’s heart. Zain left his hometown next month with a vow to never return again.
Srestha had been married to Samay’s senior in Engineering college three years back. This year, she had returned back home with a broken spirit and bruised body after months of physical abuse by her husband. Zain had come to know about it through the Whatsapp group.
Even after so many years, he had kept his heart sealed for Srestha. He waited for the day when Samay could display the requisite faith in their friendship to let him take his relationship with Srestha to the next level. Until then, Zain kept the flame of hope alive in his life through his unrequited love for Srestha.
It’s that time of the year again when the wait for the biggest celebration for a Bengali household comes to an end with the arrival of Mahalaya. For the next ten days, all that one can hear a Bengali talk about is how Durga pujo is nothing short of an emotion. It doesn’t matter in which city you are going to celebrate pujo this year. It could be Berhampore/Murshidabad, Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, New York or London because the level of excitement always stays the same.
Mahalaya in my childhood meant the beginning of school holidays. Preparation began the night before as Ma pestered me to sleep early while ensuring that Baba kept the radio station sorted out for the wee hours of the morning. Sharp at 4 am, she woke up every year to turn on the radio. I would snuggle up to them with sleepy eyes as Mahishashur Mardini was aired on All India Radio. Birendra Krishna Bhadra chanted the verses of Chandi Kavya/Path while devotional songs played during intervals.
And then Doordarshan came up with a Mahalaya special episode of Mahishashur Mardini. My parents would watch till the end as I dozed off intermittently. Baba would next go to the local sweet shop Mitali and get us Kachori, Aloo Dum and misthi. I still feel those were the only motivating factors for me to wake up so early.
I normally spent the day reading books that I would stack up for the last few months. These were called pujabarshikis because these annual magazines were published only during pujo. For me, Anandamela pujabarshiki meant the world though we also got Shukhtara, Desh, Sananda and Anandalok. This hasn’t changed over the years. Last year I had written a post on how this is a gift from my father that I eagerly wait for every year. This year, I am hoping to get it when I travel to Berhampore this 12th.